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Morocco clears out migrant camps near Spanish enclave

Published:Thursday | February 12, 2015 | 12:00 AM


Moroccan security forces raided a makeshift mountain camp and arrested hundreds of illegal migrants in a crackdown that aimed to halt constant attempts to storm Spain's North African enclave of Melilla, activists and officials said yesterday.

Police, gendarmes and riot squads climbed rugged Mount Gourougou, rounded up 1,200 migrants who had been squatting there in tents and bussed them to remote towns in southern Morocco like Taroudant and Rachidia.

"This is the biggest sweep since I've worked on immigration," said Adil Akkid from the Moroccan Association of Human Rights.

The raids, which started early Tuesday, came after the Interior Ministry announced that the illegal migrant camps there and elsewhere would be dismantled as part of a new immigration policy. The government yesterday described the operation as the "liberation" of migrants forced to live on the mountain by human traffickers.

For the past year, sub-Saharan migrants have made almost weekly attempts to reach Europe via the two Spanish enclaves on the Moroccan coast, Melilla and Ceuta. Spain says 2,000 migrants crossed into the enclaves in 65 storming attempts last year.

Several hundred migrants made one last attempt to storm Melilla's fences on Tuesday morning. Most were repulsed, but Spanish authorities said 35 made it across.

Human rights organisations have criticised both Morocco and Spain for their harsh treatment of the migrants.